Twelve months can be a long time in netball.
In September last year the New Zealand Silver Ferns wrapped up a Quad Series title with a shock 57-47 win over the Samsung Australian Diamonds in Invercargill, firing some early shots ahead of what looked like being a promising Commonwealth Games tilt on the Gold Coast.
The early success, however, proved to be something of a false economy, with the Silver Ferns slumping to their worst ever Commonwealth Games result and missing out on the medals for the first time in their history.
But beware the wounded warrior.
A new-look team, a new coach soon to be announced and a burning desire to get back to the top of world netball will be the driving forces behind New Zealand’s International Test Series campaign.
To put it simply: while rebuilding is clearly a part of their strategy moving forward, with a number of exciting young players included in the team, when the ITS rolls around next month they’ll be out to do some damage.
When veteran defender Casey Kopua returns from a two-year retirement (and a major injury) to put her hand up for selection, and superstar midcourter Laura Langman is back in the fold after a two-year hiatus, the intention is clear.
Make no mistake – the New Zealand Silver Ferns are here to win, and even if they don’t immediately click in their opening Quad Series matches against England, Australia and South Africa, by the time the first Constellation Cup Test rolls around in Brisbane on October 7, they could be absolutely humming.
New Zealand and Australian netball fans alike will be excited to get their first look at rising young goal shooter Aliyah Dunn, who’s made the 12-player cut for the Test Series after a stellar ANZ Premiership season, effectively at the expense of Bailey Mes.
Meanwhile, Langman will lead a new-look midcourt that includes Gina Crampton, who has earned a recall after missing Commonwealth Games selection, while Shannon Francois and Grace Kara have missed out.
But the big question now is: who will lead them from the sidelines?
Samsung Diamonds legend Liz Ellis is adamant that Noeline Taurua is set to be anointed as the new Silver Ferns coach now the Lightning’s 2018 campaign is wrapped up.
“Given we are less than a year out from the next netball World Cup, you could be forgiven for thinking it is remiss of Netball New Zealand to announce a coach-less squad. Unless your coach was busy elsewhere. Like maybe coaching a team in the Super Netball finals,” Ellis wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to join the dots and come to the conclusion that Sunshine Coast Lightning’s coach, former Silver Fern Noeline Taurua is likely to be anointed as only the 11th coach of the New Zealand netball team.”
Australian netball needs little reminder of Taurua’s talents, given she took the reins at the Suncorp Super Netball startup and took it to a premiership in its first season and repeated that feat to make it back-to-back Suncorp Super Netball titles.
If she does get the call-up and can bring the talent-laden Ferns together in quick time, they’ll be a very formidable foe indeed.